Dwindling registration for the Bicycle Ride of Georgia (BRAG) has prompted the organizers to put out a call for support and to announce some changes this year.
The not-for-profit group says the number of cyclists in the week-long bicycle tour last year — 895 — was the lowest since 1988. Organizers report that registration has been declining ever since the recession hit in 2008.
In a message sent out this week, ride director Vicki Thompson and CEO Jerry Colley said BRAG needs 1,200 riders for the event to break-even. The small registration created a $64,000 loss.
Fortunately, the organization’s other rides — Spring Tune-Up Ride, Georgia BikeFest, and WinterRide — have remained profitable and prop up the dwindling receipts from the week-long summer bike ride. That still wasn’t enough to put BRAG in the black by the end of the year, however.
“Obviously, we cannot continue to operate BRAG at a loss. The Great Recession has hit us very hard. We must make some changes in order to survive,” Thompson and Colley wrote in the newsletter.
“Unlike some other statewide rides, BRAG receives no support from the state government. We don’t have a title sponsor. We also don’t have a statewide newspaper publicizing our every move.”
Some of the changes:
BRAG 2013 will be a six-day ride, instead of seven days. Many potential participants had to choose between taking off a day or two from work or registering for the ride. The Purist Ride option on Day 0 and Hammerhead options throughout the week will still ensure that cyclists can get plenty of miles.
Registration fees are slated for a modest increase. Details will be available when registration opens at the end of the month. The organizers say other week-long bike rides in the region — Bike Virginia, Bike Florida and Bike Ride Across Tennessee (BRAT) — all charge more.
A concerted effort will be made to recruit more young people, such as college age cyclists.
The group also has created a BRAG fund-raiser page where supporters can donate to help the ride survive. The goal is $39,000, which represents the amount that the ride is in the hole. More than $1,300 has been donated so far.
The best way to support the ride, the organizers say, is to register for BRAG 2013 (June 2 – 8) with other family members. Then encourage friends and teammates to do the same.
BRAG 2013 will start in Cordele with overnights in Tifton, Douglas (two nights), Waycross, Brunswick and St. Marys. Trucks will carry your gear and shower trucks will be available at the end of the day.
BRAG’s history dates back to 1980 when 60 cyclists set off from Savannah on a bicycle tour then known as the Great GASBE (Georgia’s Annual State Bicycling Event).
That event founded by Dot Moss caught fire, and more bicyclists hopped on board every year as the tour explored the Peach State.
BRAG’s peak registration was 2,814 in 1996. The ride generated 1,500 to 2,000 riders through 2009. Registration dropped to 1,100 in 2010 and 2011, and then to 895 last year.
Let’s hope BRAG stays strong into the future.